Pelagianism is theological shorthand for any mode of thinking and acting that depends on us making something happen. The classic argument between Augustine and Pelagius was whether salvation was a free gift of God’s grace or something we could earn by our own efforts. That same up-by-the-bootstraps mentality finds its way into other aspects of our lives of faith, perhaps nowhere more consistently and problem-causing than when it comes to revival. We can make a lot of noise, drum up a lot of emotion, and create what looks a lot like revival. But when we do that, we actually do the opposite. All our efforts at sparking revival only serve to distract from what the Holy Spirit is doing. All our clamor drowns out the still small voice of God’s breath.
Someone told me the other day that we are supposed to be “catalysts for revival in our communities.” I don’t agree. We are not the catalysts. The Holy Spirit is the catalyst. Always. We can’t grow churches or bring about revival. Only the Holy Spirit can do this. To the extent that we think we can manufacture revival or capture the hearts of people via cultural relevance is just to the extent that we have lost our understanding of what it means for the church to be the church. Revival comes as all other aspects of this life of faith, as a free gift of God given to us as we go about the daily work of obedience and faithfulness.
If we really want revival, we should stop trying to make it happen. Instead, we should sit together in silence and pray for the Spirit to give us again the gift of Divine Presence. No bootstraps required.
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